Missouri Legislators Want to Block Your Online Porn Access

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Say goodbye to a free world wide web — if one Missouri Republican has anything to do with it. - FLICKR/HILLARY
  • FLICKR/HILLARY
  • Say goodbye to a free world wide web — if one Missouri Republican has anything to do with it.

The Alabama man who calls pornography as a "public health crisis" and wants to force manufacturers of smartphones and computers to block it from the Internet may well be a laughing stock in the rest of the country. But in Missouri, he's writing legislation.

In fact, a bill that appears to have been written by disgraced anti-porn crusader Chris Sevier was introduced in the Missouri legislature by Representative Jim Neely (R-Cameron) just last month. House Bill 2422 would require all Internet-connecting devices sold within the state to come with a porn blocker installed; consumers who want to opt out would have to pay for the privilege.

If this dumb-ass plan sounds vaguely familiar, well, it should be.

Last year, the Daily Beast reported on Chris Sevier's anti-porn crusade, which involved persuading legislators across the nation to, yes, introduce legislation across the country forcing porn blockers on consumers and making those who opt-out pay a fee. Sevier pitched his plan as a way to tackle every politician's favorite bugaboo, sex trafficking.



After the ACLU cried foul, the Daily Beast did a little digging and determined that not only was Sevier a nutjob (he at one point intervened in lawsuit saying that if gays can wed, he should be allowed to marry his computer) but a potentially dangerous one (he was charged with "stalking and harassing both country star John Rich and a seventeen-year-old girl," the publication reported).

At the time, Sevier claimed on his website that Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) had introduced his pet legislation in Missouri. But records show that Haahr did no such thing; he told us then that he didn't think he'd ever spoken with Sevier and "certainly did not agree to sponsor this."

If only Representative Neely could come up with such a persuasive denial! In Neely's case, records show that he not only introduced the "Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Act" on February 8 but signed up 23 co-sponsors. Such is your popularity when you're vowing to stop sex trafficking (don't think Josh Hawley hasn't done polling on this one). Last Thursday, he even picked up his first Democrat, state Representative Clem Smith (D-St. Louis).

Last week the bill also had a public meeting (albeit one no one in the public seemed to be aware of). And it was scheduled for a hearing yesterday at the committee Neely himself chairs, the House Special Committee to Improve the Care and Well Being of Young People. (Because if there's anything more popular than stopping sex trafficking, it's improving the care and well-being of young people.)

So.

Now that Representative Neely has made all his co-sponsors look pretty silly, we have a friendly reminder for all you legislators out there.

Please, please, please people, read legislation before you introduce it. And hey, before you agree to accept a pre-written bill, do a little googling!

Anyway, for some reason the committee ended up not hearing the bill yesterday. It's possible Neely has gotten wise to the problems with his bill's true author (even if not its substance). We don't know; he didn't return our call seeking comment yesterday afternoon.

But Jefferson City being the constant game of whack-a-nut that it is, we're going to make a little prediction here. Even if Neely does back down from this nonsense, it's surely only a matter of time before some other person wanting to prove their anti-trafficking bona fides falls for Sevier's game and introduces this idiocy all over again.

We can only hope they don't manage to pass the thing before someone notices Sevier's fingerprints on it. Bad enough to needlessly meddle in everyone's devices; even worse to be the one state stupid enough to side with a guy who allegedly harasses seventeen-year-olds and tries to marry his computer.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story gave our friendly anti-porn crusader the wrong first name. We regret the error.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com
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